Nothing can be more premature!

Egungun be careful, na express you dey go – Abass Akande Obesere.

My lords, I come not as a prophet of doom bearing depressing news about the state of things in Nigeria. But I will not, at the same time, preach boom when the reality of an imminent disaster stares us in the face. Even if we haven’t learnt a thing from the surly story of the Spanish flu of 1918, the affairs of each home should teach us that nothing can be more wrongly thought than handling your two-year-olds cookies and candies because they ignorantly and repeatedly yearn for them. Of course, not giving them temporarily pitches one as an unloving parent, but the great highlight is that one gets to avoid the disgust of the hospital waiting room as the kids get treated for various kinds of textbook health problems.

In its own wisdom, the federal government has decided to ease the lockdown placed on Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, and has replaced it with a near national curfew of 8pm to 6am as if it had struck a deal with the virus to henceforth be a nocturnal operator in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The folly in this action does not just come to bear whenever it suddenly strikes us that the virus has not relented in its geometric contagious progress even amidst the lockdown, it also defeats logical reasoning that at a time when the cases at hand are choking life out of our comatose health system, we let people out to contract more virus and come back to be treated by the few overwhelmed medical experts available to combat it.

Now, the opposing counsel will try to sweet-talk you to believing that the government has introduced some guidelines which would ensure the maintenance of social distancing and reduce the spread of the virus. Sincerely, if this is not mere fantasy, I wonder what is! Quite objectively, it is foolhardy to expect Nigerians – people in Lagos, especially – to respect a paper-pencil guideline they hardly know exists. How, for instance, do you expect Lagos commercial buses to carry just two passengers per row who must use face masks? Obviously, telling them to make this change is merely another joke to an average Lagos conductor whose only understanding of a change is that which he prays the fourth passenger on the wooden seat never remembers to demand for!

Furthermore, one of the established facts about this pandemic is that it thrives on the social nature of humans. Easing the lockdown and allowing people their freedom means more cases. More cases means longer time to open other institutions like schools, even though businesses are opened. What then is the lasting benefit in having to open business while schools remain shut, or what joy does it give us to make money from businesses and spend more money on reviving our health? Indeed, the decision to ease the lockdown and replace it with a curfew is as premature as a bridegroom’s eleven seconds ejaculation on the night of a romantic honeymoon.

I wish there was nothing to correct the opposing counsel on, but I suspect he would mis-take some settled welfare metrics and rank the urge to break free from economic hardship far and above the need to ensure the good health of many citizens. When he does this, kindly remind him that it is only when good health is assured that a new normal can be returned to with peace of mind, and that it is better to shut down businesses for some months and reopen later than to shut the coffins of loved ones for a lifetime.

As I rest my case, my one-cent prayer for the opposing counsel and other well-meaning Nigerians is that this premature easement of lockdown doesn’t make our health system grind to a halt or fall off the cliff to ground zero with ballooned cases of infected people. Peradventure this happens, surely I will be sad, but then I may be unpatriotically tempted to pride in the wit of my warning in today’s proceeding with the melodious rhymes of the great fuji singer, Abass Akande Obesere [omo arapala] – e don happen, I don tell am, motor don jam am, I don tell am. Till we meet again, my Lords, stay safe!

Not at all!

So many objections may be made to everything, that nothing can overcome them but the necessity of doing something – Samuel Johnson.

When on March 29th, the federal government of Nigeria imposed a total lockdown on Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, and other state governments collaborated with the adoption of varying degrees of partial lockdown, only a minority raised eyebrows as to the necessity. But with the two-month lockdown taking on an extension, and later continuing in a series of seemingly endless stay-at-home orders, some nationals decided they had had it all and only with the presidential order of the gradual easing of lockdown did they beam and sigh with relief. Yet, as it is typical of humans, controversies are being raised as to the timeliness of the lockdown easing order, and to prove our case we have come before your Lordships today.

My Lords, the timeliness of the lifting of lockdown in Nigeria is justified first by the state of the economy. Nigeria is a Third World economy that has been keeling over to recession time and again. With a robust population of over 200 million people, all it has to show for it is massive unemployment, barely survival level per capita income and a skyrocketing poverty rate. Understandably, such a population requires constant play in the markets, if for nothing else, for survival. However, with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown measure, matters worsened. Formerly flourishing businesses struggled for survival, resorting to massive laying off. With no job or money, and only the fear of being put behind bars for making efforts to put meal in their stomachs, more Nigerians added to the daily hunger-related death cases. It is therefore only humane that a government that cannot save or feed its populace should at least give them a chance to save themselves.

Before my opponent gets us all confused with his one-dimensional review of the fight against the pandemic, it is important we get the full picture. Taking us down the memory lane, the Nigerian government adopted the lockdown policy at a time when coronavirus spread like the trail of a vampire on a killing spree. Unfortunately, at the same time, Nigeria embarked on minimal virus testing due to lack of personnel and facility. While this is a serious matter, my Lords, I cannot but compare this error to the fate of a lanky man entering a wrestling tournament without the heads-up or the training. Indeed, such a fellow is up to take some beating.

Not quite differently, the country has taken some beating in the fight against the pandemic. While Nigerians expected a reduction in the number of active COVID-19 cases, what they got was a tenfold increase. Therefore, lifting the lockdown when the country simultaneously increases testing capacity is timely, if not even delayed.

My opponent might malign the government’s lockdown easing order as putting the entire country at jeopardy. He might even exaggerate that by coming to this court, we stand the risk of getting ourselves, our families and a million other people infected! Well, fear is freely given and it is his right to miss the point. To correct his error and assuage his fear, the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control has outlined simple healthy habits to prevent infection with the virus. If, despite the harsh weather of this country, my opponent still manages to clothe himself with a heavy gown and wig just to air his thoughts in this courtroom, adding a nose mask to keep him alive should not be too much to ask.

Finally, my Lords, the remembrance of the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria will be like that of a fool who sets out on a journey with no direction or clear vision of his destination. Even if by some miracle, he finds himself in El Dorado, he would have lost sense of his extraction back to the real world. Without a clear-cut strategy, Nigeria imposed lockdown orders haphazardly; and what’s the result – an escalation of active COVID-19 cases from 97 to 4,961, all of whom patiently await Sai Baba’s importation of the wonder-working Madagascar herbal mixture. If all these point to the same fact, it is that Nigeria needs to go back to the drawing board, acquire all necessary facility and supplies, make sufficient provisions for its citizens and then, maybe we may come back to argue whether lockdown will be necessary.